Spokane City Council Delays Decision on Police Oversight Policy

By Paige Browning

A nearly 5 hour long city council meeting Monday night ended with the extension of downtown sidewalk policies, and a delay on the police ombudsman ordinance.
 
Sit-Lie Rules
First, the council voted 4-to-3 to extend the hours of the sit-lie ordinance. Now, sitting or lying down on downtown sidewalks is banned from 6-am to midnight, and people who violate it can be arrested. Opponents say it makes homelessness a crime, and that it’s unnecessary. Supporters say it will create a friendlier downtown environment, and officers can direct homeless individuals to shelters. 

Police Agreement
Monday the council was set to vote on the police guild’s TA, or Tentative Agreement, and a related police ordinance. Instead, they kicked both votes down the road to February.
 
The deferrals came after Police Chief Frank Straub gave a long presentation touting the department’s strengths. The council already voted down the first TA in November, and Straub made it clear if they vote no again, an arbitrator’s decisions won’t be good for the city.
 
Straub: “Compensation will probably increase above the current TA. That will jeopardize hiring in 2014. Community police programs aren’t gonna happen. It is doubtful that the arbitrator will even consider body cameras.”

Council members Mike Allen, Steve Salvatori, and Mike Fagan each implied they didn’t quite see the TA or ordinance meeting the public’s requests for better police oversight. A voter approved proposition last February asked for more independence in the police ombudsman’s investigations. So, Councilman Allen proposed deferring the vote, and said Mayor Condon’s ordinance is very close to what the council is looking for.
 
Allen: “I think giving council some additional time, as well as taking it back out to the public so they have at least a week to respond to it, will help us get there.”
 
The guild president also spoke at the meeting and said the guild is committed to working with the city to implement the ordinance, once approved. Council members voted 4-to-3 to defer the TA, and 5-to-2 to defer the police ombudsman ordinance, both to February 3rd.

Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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